Free Russia Foundation Launches #NoToWar Campaign

Civic Solidarity Platform Appeal with Regard to the Recent Events in Belarus

Aug 12 2020

INTERNATIONAL COMMUNITY SHOULD REACT IMMEDIATELY AND STRONGLY TO RIGGED PRESIDENTIAL ELECTIONS AND MASSIVE VIOLENCE OF SECURITY FORCES AGAINST PEACEFUL PROTESTORS IN BELARUS

Appeal by members of the Civic Solidarity Platform

10 August 2020

The undersigned organizations, members of the Civic Solidarity Platform, express their shock and outrage about the way the 9 August presidential elections in Belarus have been manipulated by the government.

We support peaceful protests of Belarusians against this flagrant violation of standards for the conduct of elections agreed in the OSCE. We strongly denounce disproportionate and excessive use of violence by security forces and mass detention of several thousand of protest participants across the country.

The weeks preceding the election day have been marred by systemic and systematic violations of fundamental rights and freedoms. This created no conditions for free and fair elections according to international standards. We have witnessed independent candidates illegally disqualified from running in elections. Several candidates, their supporters, and others questioning the current government policies were persecuted through penal and administrative means, and their freedom of expression was severely limited. According to Belarusian human rights organizations, 26 political prisoners were held in detention in the run-up to the elections. Independent domestic observation of the elections has been thwarted under false pretexts, and many independent observers were illegally detained. International election observation, including by the OSCE, was blocked by the authorities. Media coverage was severely restricted.

On the election day, the few independent election observers who were present at the polling stations, as well as journalists and civic activists, have reported mass falsifications. A number of foreign journalists were detained and taken to the police stations due to lacking accreditation which most of them applied for in a timely manner but received rejections. Internet and mobile connection in the country was poor since early morning of the election day and most of social media and independent news sites were blocked. By the evening, military vehicles arrived in Minsk and public transport was shut down. After the preliminary official results were announced in the evening, mass peaceful protests started in the city centers in Minsk, Brest, Mogilev and dozens of other cities across the country. Witnesses reported brutal assaults of the protestors by the riot police. They used water cannons, flash grenades, rubber bullets, tear gas, and brutal force against the protestors. Dozens of injured protesters are in hospitals; several are in critical conditions. According to the official data, at least three thousand protestors have been detained. We consider disproportionate and brutal use of force and detention of protestors illegal.

Given the developments in the run-up to the elections and on the election day, we consider these elections the most violent and non-transparent in the modern history of Belarus. Official results of the elections cannot be considered reflecting the true will of Belarusian people.

We demand that the Belarusian authorities:

  • Acknowledge massive irregularities in holding the elections and publish the election results reflecting the true choice of the Belarusian people;
  • Engage in direct dialogue with representatives of independent candidates to negotiate a peaceful and legal way out of the crisis;
  • Immediately stop unwarranted violence against protesters, release the detained, and respect the right to peaceful assembly;
  • Observe the rights of all detainees and immediately notify their families about their whereabouts and provide unhindered access for lawyers;
  • Hold an independent, prompt and effective investigation of cases of violence, with maximum transparency and under international control, to end impunity on the part of the security forces;
  • End the blocking of the Internet and obstructing the work of journalists.

We call on the international community, and in particular other OSCE participating States:

  • Not to recognize the election outcome that has been officially announced;
  • Direct urgent efforts towards de-escalation and launching a mediated dialogue on a peaceful way out of the crisis respecting the principles of international law, that would include all sectors of Belarusian society that want to engage on this basis;
  • Hold an urgent discussion in the OSCE on the crisis in Belarus, and consider the invoking the OSCE Moscow Mechanism as the most relevant and expedient way to hold an internationally trusted investigation into the events in Belarus;
  • Hold urgent consultations in the EU on the events in Belarus and consider relevant and adequate reaction to the possibly most violent and non-transparent elections in the modern Belarus history;
  • Hold an urgent debate on the crisis in Belarus at the upcoming session of the UN Human Rights Council. We urge the UN High Commissioner on Human Rights to take a lead in the UN Human Rights reaction to the events in Belarus and the UN Special Rapporteur on the human rights situation in Belarus to produce an urgent report and present it to the upcoming session of the UN General Assembly.

List of organizations supporting the appeal:

  1. Center for Civil Liberties (Ukraine)
  2. Center for Participation and Development (Georgia)
  3. Truth Hounds (Ukraine)
  4. Hungarian Helsinki Committee
  5. Association of Ukrainian Human Rights Monitors on Law Enforcement (Ukraine)
  6. Public Verdict Foundation (Russia)
  7. Bulgarian Helsinki Committee
  8. Foundation of Regional Initiatives (Ukraine)
  9. Helsinki Committee for Human Rights in Serbia
  10. International Partnership for Human Rights (Belgium)
  11. World Organization against Torture (OMCT) (Belgium)
  12. Human Rights Center (Georgia)
  13. Kharkiv Regional Foundation Public Alternative (Ukraine)
  14. Public Association “Dignity” (Kazakhstan)
  15. Netherlands Helsinki Committee
  16. Human Rights Center ZMINA (Ukraine)
  17. Helsinki Citizens’ Assembly – Vanadzor (Armenia)
  18. DRA – German-Russian Exchange (Germany)
  19. Center for the Development of Democracy and Human Rights (Russia)
  20. The Barys Zvozskau Belarusian Human Rights House
  21. Freedom Files (Poland)
  22. Office of Civil Freedoms (Tajikistan)
  23. Human Rights House Foundation (Norway)
  24. Helsinki Foundation for Human Rights (Poland)
  25. Social Action Centre (Ukraine)
  26. Public Association “Human Rights Movement: Bir Duino-Kyrgyzstan”
  27. Swiss Helsinki Committee
  28. Citizens’ Watch (Russia)
  29. Norwegian Helsinki Committee
  30. Institute for Reporters Freedom and Safety (Azerbaijan/Switzerland)
  31. Human Rights Club (Azerbaijan/Switzerland)
  32. Moscow Helsinki Group (Russia)
  33. Public Foundation “Voice of Freedom” (Kyrgyzstan)
  34. Human Rights Center Memorial (Russia)
  35. OSCE Network (Sweden)
  36. SOVA Center for Information and Analysis (Russia)
  37. Women of the Don (Russia)
  38. The Human Rights Center of Azerbaijan
  39. Kazakhstan International Bureau for Human Rights and the Rule of Law
  40. Helsinki Association (Armenia)
  41. The Georgian Centre for Psychosocial and Medial Rehabilitation of Torture Victims – GCRT
  42. humanrights.ch (Switzerland)
  43. Promo LEX (Moldova)
  44. Helsinki Committee for Human Rights in Slovakia
  45. Free Russia Foundation (the U.S., Ukraine, Georgia, the Czech Republic)

Originally published by Civic Solidarity Platform

Photo credit: TUT.BY

Appeal by members of the Civic Solidarity Platform

10 August 2020

The undersigned organizations, members of the Civic Solidarity Platform, express their shock and outrage about the way the 9 August presidential elections in Belarus have been manipulated by the government.

We support peaceful protests of Belarusians against this flagrant violation of standards for the conduct of elections agreed in the OSCE. We strongly denounce disproportionate and excessive use of violence by security forces and mass detention of several thousand of protest participants across the country.

The weeks preceding the election day have been marred by systemic and systematic violations of fundamental rights and freedoms. This created no conditions for free and fair elections according to international standards. We have witnessed independent candidates illegally disqualified from running in elections. Several candidates, their supporters, and others questioning the current government policies were persecuted through penal and administrative means, and their freedom of expression was severely limited. According to Belarusian human rights organizations, 26 political prisoners were held in detention in the run-up to the elections. Independent domestic observation of the elections has been thwarted under false pretexts, and many independent observers were illegally detained. International election observation, including by the OSCE, was blocked by the authorities. Media coverage was severely restricted.

On the election day, the few independent election observers who were present at the polling stations, as well as journalists and civic activists, have reported mass falsifications. A number of foreign journalists were detained and taken to the police stations due to lacking accreditation which most of them applied for in a timely manner but received rejections. Internet and mobile connection in the country was poor since early morning of the election day and most of social media and independent news sites were blocked. By the evening, military vehicles arrived in Minsk and public transport was shut down. After the preliminary official results were announced in the evening, mass peaceful protests started in the city centers in Minsk, Brest, Mogilev and dozens of other cities across the country. Witnesses reported brutal assaults of the protestors by the riot police. They used water cannons, flash grenades, rubber bullets, tear gas, and brutal force against the protestors. Dozens of injured protesters are in hospitals; several are in critical conditions. According to the official data, at least three thousand protestors have been detained. We consider disproportionate and brutal use of force and detention of protestors illegal.

Given the developments in the run-up to the elections and on the election day, we consider these elections the most violent and non-transparent in the modern history of Belarus. Official results of the elections cannot be considered reflecting the true will of Belarusian people.

We demand that the Belarusian authorities:

  • Acknowledge massive irregularities in holding the elections and publish the election results reflecting the true choice of the Belarusian people;
  • Engage in direct dialogue with representatives of independent candidates to negotiate a peaceful and legal way out of the crisis;
  • Immediately stop unwarranted violence against protesters, release the detained, and respect the right to peaceful assembly;
  • Observe the rights of all detainees and immediately notify their families about their whereabouts and provide unhindered access for lawyers;
  • Hold an independent, prompt and effective investigation of cases of violence, with maximum transparency and under international control, to end impunity on the part of the security forces;
  • End the blocking of the Internet and obstructing the work of journalists.

We call on the international community, and in particular other OSCE participating States:

  • Not to recognize the election outcome that has been officially announced;
  • Direct urgent efforts towards de-escalation and launching a mediated dialogue on a peaceful way out of the crisis respecting the principles of international law, that would include all sectors of Belarusian society that want to engage on this basis;
  • Hold an urgent discussion in the OSCE on the crisis in Belarus, and consider the invoking the OSCE Moscow Mechanism as the most relevant and expedient way to hold an internationally trusted investigation into the events in Belarus;
  • Hold urgent consultations in the EU on the events in Belarus and consider relevant and adequate reaction to the possibly most violent and non-transparent elections in the modern Belarus history;
  • Hold an urgent debate on the crisis in Belarus at the upcoming session of the UN Human Rights Council. We urge the UN High Commissioner on Human Rights to take a lead in the UN Human Rights reaction to the events in Belarus and the UN Special Rapporteur on the human rights situation in Belarus to produce an urgent report and present it to the upcoming session of the UN General Assembly.

List of organizations supporting the appeal:

  1. Center for Civil Liberties (Ukraine)
  2. Center for Participation and Development (Georgia)
  3. Truth Hounds (Ukraine)
  4. Hungarian Helsinki Committee
  5. Association of Ukrainian Human Rights Monitors on Law Enforcement (Ukraine)
  6. Public Verdict Foundation (Russia)
  7. Bulgarian Helsinki Committee
  8. Foundation of Regional Initiatives (Ukraine)
  9. Helsinki Committee for Human Rights in Serbia
  10. International Partnership for Human Rights (Belgium)
  11. World Organization against Torture (OMCT) (Belgium)
  12. Human Rights Center (Georgia)
  13. Kharkiv Regional Foundation Public Alternative (Ukraine)
  14. Public Association “Dignity” (Kazakhstan)
  15. Netherlands Helsinki Committee
  16. Human Rights Center ZMINA (Ukraine)
  17. Helsinki Citizens’ Assembly – Vanadzor (Armenia)
  18. DRA – German-Russian Exchange (Germany)
  19. Center for the Development of Democracy and Human Rights (Russia)
  20. The Barys Zvozskau Belarusian Human Rights House
  21. Freedom Files (Poland)
  22. Office of Civil Freedoms (Tajikistan)
  23. Human Rights House Foundation (Norway)
  24. Helsinki Foundation for Human Rights (Poland)
  25. Social Action Centre (Ukraine)
  26. Public Association “Human Rights Movement: Bir Duino-Kyrgyzstan”
  27. Swiss Helsinki Committee
  28. Citizens’ Watch (Russia)
  29. Norwegian Helsinki Committee
  30. Institute for Reporters Freedom and Safety (Azerbaijan/Switzerland)
  31. Human Rights Club (Azerbaijan/Switzerland)
  32. Moscow Helsinki Group (Russia)
  33. Public Foundation “Voice of Freedom” (Kyrgyzstan)
  34. Human Rights Center Memorial (Russia)
  35. OSCE Network (Sweden)
  36. SOVA Center for Information and Analysis (Russia)
  37. Women of the Don (Russia)
  38. The Human Rights Center of Azerbaijan
  39. Kazakhstan International Bureau for Human Rights and the Rule of Law
  40. Helsinki Association (Armenia)
  41. The Georgian Centre for Psychosocial and Medial Rehabilitation of Torture Victims – GCRT
  42. humanrights.ch (Switzerland)
  43. Promo LEX (Moldova)
  44. Helsinki Committee for Human Rights in Slovakia
  45. Free Russia Foundation (the U.S., Ukraine, Georgia, the Czech Republic)

Originally published by Civic Solidarity Platform

Photo credit: TUT.BY

Free Russia Foundation Condemns the Signing of the Treaty on the “Incorporation of New Territories into Russia,” De Facto the Annexation of the Occupied Territories of Ukraine

Sep 30 2022

On Friday, September 30, 2022, Russian President Vladimir Putin and the heads of the self-proclaimed “Luhansk People’s Republic” and “Donetsk People’s Republic,” as well as the occupation administrations of Zaporizhia and Kherson regions, signed treaties in the Kremlin on “joining Russia.”

Free Russia Foundation strongly condemns the decision of Vladimir Putin and his administration to continue the illegal annexation of the occupied territories in Ukraine. The forcible change of international borders at the expense of another sovereign state and the so-called “referenda” that preceded it are a serious violation of the foundations of international law and cannot be recognized under any circumstances.

Natalia Arno, president of Free Russia Foundation: “Today Vladimir Putin has de facto announced the illegal annexation of the occupied territory of a sovereign state. The signing of this treaty is a blatant violation of the fundamental norms of international law and the Charter of the United Nations, of which Russia is a member. Such actions by the Russian President, together with previously announced military mobilization and nuclear blackmail, only lead to an escalation of the conflict and new human sacrifices. In the modern world, borders cannot be redrawn at gunpoint. Russia’s actions are illegal and unacceptable to the civilized world.”

Free Russia Foundation, which provides support to Russian activists, journalists, and human rights defenders, calls on all countries and international organizations to join us in resolute and public condemnation of Russian military aggression and its illegal actions to tear away the territory of sovereign Ukraine. We urge you to call on the Kremlin to cease its hostilities and leave the territories it has seized.

Free Russia Foundation Condemns the Kremlin’s Decision to Annex the Occupied Territories of Ukraine and Preparations for Mobilization in Russia

Sep 20 2022

On September 20, 2022, the occupation authorities of the self-proclaimed republics “LNR” and “DNR” and other occupied territories of Ukraine, Zaporozhye and Kherson regions, hastily announced that they would hold “referendums on joining Russia” in the near future. The authorities of the “LNR” and “DNR” added that the vote will take place as early as this week, from September 23 to 27, 2022.

On the same day, the Russian State Duma introduced the concepts of “mobilization,” “martial law” and “wartime” into the Russian Criminal Code. The deputies voted for the law in the third reading unanimously — all 389 of them. Now voluntary surrender, looting and unauthorized abandonment of a unit during combat operations will result in imprisonment.

From the first day of the war unleashed by Putin’s regime and its allies against independent Ukraine, Free Russia Foundation, which supports Russian activists, journalists, and human rights activists forced to leave the country because of direct security threats, has condemned the crimes of Putin’s regime against independent Ukraine. We respect the territorial integrity and sovereignty of states and consider human life and freedom to be of the highest value.

The forthcoming “referendums”, mobilization, and martial law are a collapse of the whole system of “Putin’s stability,” the illusion of which the Kremlin has been trying to maintain since the beginning of the full-scale war with Ukraine. Vladimir Putin is preparing to blatantly violate international law once again and launch an attack on democracy and freedom in Ukraine and Europe. Any statements by the Kremlin that residents of the occupied territories of Ukraine want to become part of Russia are false.

Three decades ago, the Ukrainian people proclaimed the independence of their state. Since 2014, the world has seen that Vladimir Putin has undermined Ukraine’s sovereignty and any attempts at anti-war protest in Russia through military force, repressive legislation, false statements, and massive state propaganda. Despite all the suffering inflicted on Ukraine, Putin has failed to achieve this goal: Ukrainians continue to show fortitude and determination to defend their country at any cost, and Russian anti-war resistance continues despite repression.

We consider any attempts to tear away Ukrainian territory through so-called “referendums” categorically unacceptable and call on state institutions and international human rights organizations to join the demand for an immediate end to the war and the liberation of the occupied territories. Any war brings suffering to humanity and endangers peace. We will not allow a totalitarian dictatorship to prevail and we will continue to fight for Ukraine’s independence and Russia’s democratic future.

Free Russia Foundation announces the appointment of Vladimir Milov as Vice President for International Advocacy

Sep 01 2022

September 1, 2022. Washington, DC. Free Russia Foundation announces the appointment of Russian politician, publicist, economist, and energy expert Vladimir Milov as FRF Vice President for International Advocacy.

In her announcement of Vladimir’s new role, Natalia Arno, President of Free Russia Foundation, remarked: “I am delighted to welcome this distinguished Russian civil society leader to our team. I am certain that Vladimir will become our force multiplier and make a profound contribution to FRF’s mission, including strengthening civil society in Russia, standing up for democracy defenders who oppose war, both inside and outside the country, building coalitions and mobilizing supporters. Vladimir Milov’s professional skills and extensive experience in human rights advocacy will help us come up with effective and innovative approaches to combat the authoritarian regime and repression that the current Russian government has unleashed against citizens of Russia, Ukraine, and Belarus.”

Vladimir Milov was born on June 18, 1972. From 1997—2002 he worked in government agencies, more than 4 years of which were in senior positions, from assistant to the Chairman of the Federal Energy Commission to the Deputy Minister of Energy of Russia.

Vladimir Milov has bravely and publicly called out the authorities for monopolizing the economy, and encroaching into public and political life of Russian citizens. Milov’s profile as an opposition leader rose thanks to his joint project with Boris Nemtsov. The report titled “Putin. Results,” condemned the activities of the Russian government during Putin’s presidency. In 2010, Mr. Milov headed the Democratic Choice movement, which later served as the basis for the creation of a political party with the same name.

In 2016, Mr. Milov became an associate of the unregistered presidential candidate Alexei Navalny. On May 11, 2017, he began hosting a weekly segment on the economy, “Where’s the Money?” on the NavalnyLIVE broadcast on YouTube.

In April of 2021, he left Russia for Lithuania amidst persecution of Alexei Navalny’s organizations. In February of 2022, he categorically condemned Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. On May 6, 2022, the Russian Ministry of Justice added Vladimir Milov to the list of media outlets considered as “foreign agents.” Vladimir Milov is a regular guest expert for the world’s leading media outlets — CNN, CNBC, The New York Times, The Financial Times, The Washington Post, The Economist, The Wall Street Journal.

Kara-Murza faces a new charge as the Kremlin cracks down on its opponents

Aug 04 2022

Russian pro-democracy politician Vladimir Kara-Murza, who’s been in jail since April for allegedly spreading “disinformation” about the Russian military, now also stands accused of “carrying out the activities of an undesirable organization,” which names Free Russia Foundation in the newly filed charge.

Free Russia Foundation, unconstitutionally designated as an “undesirable” organization by the Russian government in June 2019, did not organize an event on political prisoners in Moscow in 2021. FRF does not have any presence or programs inside Russia. Additionally, FRF has never conducted any work in the State of Arizona.

FRF strongly condemns the new charges brought against Vladimir Kara-Murza by Russian authorities and demands the dropping of all charges against him and calls for his immediate release.

“All actions of the Kremlin directed against Russian opposition politicians and activists have nothing in common with establishing the truth. They are instead aimed solely at getting rid of opponents of Putin’s regime,” FRF President Arno stated.

Free Russian Foundation and Boris Nemtsov Foundation launch “Russians for Change” fundraising campaign

Jul 25 2022

Russia is not Putin. We are Russia.

We aim at sharing this message with our friends around the world — therefore, in cooperation with Boris Nemtsov Foundation we are launching “Russians for Change” fundraising campaign.

We are going to be telling the stories of active pro-democracy anti-war Russians who have not lost their hope. US nationals also participate in this campaign: Francis Fukuyama, investigative journalist Casey Michel, and alumni of Boris Nemtsov Foundation media school.

Thank you for your donation:

The Boris Nemtsov Foundation for Freedom honors the political legacy of Boris Nemtsov, a Russian liberal opposition politician assassinated in Moscow in 2015. It promotes freedom of speech and education along with the vision that Russia is a part of Europe.